The older the violin …

As I entered the coffee shop I saw my cantankerous old buddy, Ebeneezer Griper, reading a news magazine. Eb was deeply absorbed, his wire rim reading glasses sitting at the end of his long, narrow nose.

“What’s news this morning?” I inquired as I approached his table.

Startled, Eb barked, “For cryin’ out loud, don’t sneak up on an old guy like that!”

“Sorry,” I said as I pulled up a chair. “That must be a fascinating story. Have doctors discovered a cure for your orneriness?”

Eb scowled and then held up his magazine, revealing a photograph of Miss America.

“She’s pretty!” I responded. “Young enough to be your great-granddaughter, but really pretty.”

Eb scratched the stubble on his chin and put the magazine on the table. “You know, boy, humans are really interesting.”

“Particularly Miss America,” I teased.

“Aw, grow up. I’m trying to be serious.”


“As I was saying,” Eb continued philosophically, “humans are really interesting. Now you take a dozen Yorkshire sows and they all look pretty much alike. You take a dozen Hereford cows and they all look pretty much alike. Then you take a dozen human females and there are a lot of differences.”

“Oh man, Eb, don’t go there,” I warned. “But you do know this occurs with human males too. Neither of us have ever been mistaken for Robert Redford. Besides, the French say, ‘Vive la différence!’ What prompted your Hereford-human comparison?”

“Oh, I was just recalling what Hilda looked like when she was the same age as Miss America.”


Eb thought for a few seconds and then chuckled, “No comparison.”

“So what attracted you to her then?”

“Her father owned a farm and she was an only child,” he responded matter-of-factly.

“Honesty is a virtue, Eb, but remember beauty is only skin deep.”

“Yeah, but ugly goes all the way to the bone.”

I know Eb isn’t always as crass as he seems so I was blunt. “Eb, you’re always complaining about Hilda. What has kept you two together for so long?”


“Aw, come on. There has to be something about Hilda that trips your trigger; turns your crank. What is it?”

Eb looked up at me with a scowl. “Who the heck do you think you are? Dear Abby? You’re getting downright personal!”

“Eb,” I said, “marital relationships are fascinating. You’re sitting here comparing Hilda to Miss America — negatively, I might add. Why have you stayed with her all these years?”

“Sixty-five years, seven months, one week and three days. But who’s counting?”

“You haven’t answered my question!”

Eb stirred his coffee for a few seconds. When he resumed speaking it was in a subdued voice. “Let me tell you something, boy. Half the time Hilda drives me nuts. The other half, I don’t know what I’d ever do without her.”

He paused again and stared into his coffee cup. Then he looked me in the eye and continued, “At my age, I’ve learned to live with the stuff that drives me nuts but I worry a lot about how I’d ever get along without Hilda. I guess I talk about the first half so I don’t have to think about the second half. The truth is, I love that woman! Hilda has beauty Miss America won’t discover for another 40 years.”

I was shocked at Eb’s heretofore unexpressed sentimentality. “Eb,” I said, “that’s beautiful …”

“And,” he interrupted, his eyes narrowing, “if you ever repeat that to Hilda I’ll deny everything.”

Eb closed his magazine. As he pushed his chair back from the table, he turned to me and said, “There’s an old country song that says, ‘The older the violin, the sweeter the music.'” He then stood and headed for the cash register.

“Now where are you going?” I quizzed.

Eb turned, flashed a rare grin and replied, “I think I’ll go home and fiddle around.”

Arvid Huisman can be contacted at huismaniowa@gmail.com. ©2024 by Huisman Communications.


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